Entering the 2011 volleyball season, Pleasant Valley head coach John Gesiskie was concerned about his team's youth and inexperience.
Thirteen straight Mountain Valley Conference wins later, he may not have to worry about it any longer.
Top-seeded Pleasant Valley swept No. 4 Stroudsburg in three games, 25-18, 25-21, 25-19 in the conference semi-finals Tuesday night. All three games were relatively close and made the young Lady Bears battle their way to victory. Having won in the matter that his team did, Gesiskie is hoping that it will pay dividends in the near future.
"Our biggest concern coming into tonight was having so many young girls out there," said Gesiskie. "We only have three girls that have been on the court before, and now you were looking at having pressure situations in a playoff atmosphere. We were wondering how they were going to react.
"Having close games put the pressure on the girls to perform better. I think that will help us more in the finals because they had never heard the noise before tonight. Now they have heard the noises, faced tough competition most of the way and should have the confidence to get it done."
Stroudsburg came out focused and took an early 5-3 lead in game one. However, Pleasant Valley responded with five straight points behind the serving of conference MVP Breanna Joseph to take an 8-5 lead of its own. The Mounties continued to fight and clawed back to within two (14-12), but the Bears pulled away down the stretch and went on to win by seven.
Game two was an even tighter battle. Pleasant Valley was only up by as many as three by the time Stroudsburg came back to tie the score at 18. The Mounties would actually lead 19-18, 20-19 and 21-20, but seemed to succumb to the pressure. The Bears scored the last five points of the game to come from behind and win.
The Bears' game two victory pleased Gesiskie the most.
"Before the game, the girls had to tell each other who they believed in and how they felt they were going to help them," Gesiskie said. "So, during the game when we have pressure situations, they don't have to turn to me. Every one of them named their teammates and said they will be there for them.
"If you make a mistake, you turn to them or they turn to you and say it's going to be alright and we are going to pull this off. As the pressure started turning on, the girls weren't worried about it. They came back, took a deep breath and were ready to go. I was very happy with the way they performed."
After a back-and-forth start to game three, Pleasant Valley jumped out to a big lead and went up by as many as nine (21-12). Stroudsburg chipped away and made the score respectable, but fell in the end by six.
Joseph led the Bears with 16 kills, seven blocks and two aces. Teammate Courtney Miller helped out with eight kills and two blocks. Fellow Bear Kiersten Griesback dished out 16 assists, while Andrea Giardina made 15 digs.
Pleasant Valley will look to defend its conference title against Pocono Mountain East on Thursday at East Stroudsburg North. Although his team is perfect in conference play this season, Gesiskie isn't about to take anything for granted.
"It is going to be a toss up," said Gesiskie. "The biggest thing that East has going for it is its height and its experience. They have eight seniors. That experience should help them.
"Whoever makes the least amount of errors is going to win. That's always what it comes down to. Everyone makes those errors. It's how can you turn around, take a deep breath and come back off of those errors. I think that will be the key."